New Window on the World
the plane fare. SFSU's new International
Center for the Arts, made possible by a generous donation from George
and Judy Marcus, offers a close-up look at the creativity of artists
from around the globe -- without having to leave San Francisco.
SFSU alumni George and Judy Marcus recently presented a $3 million gift
to the University to establish the International Center for the Arts.
"We wanted something distinctive and special," says George
Marcus, "to cultivate artists locally and internationally, to focus
on SF State's qualities, attract students and bring in visiting professors
and artists.… Most of all [the center] is going to be fun."
Based in the College of Creative Arts, the new center -- part theater,
part museum -- celebrates the world's most innovative art and artists,
with a focus on documentary films and visual art. Through the center,
the Marcuses will present three annual juried awards, each worth up
to $50,000, to artists whose work demonstrates excellence, emerging
talent or lifetime achievement.
Festivals, exhibits and film screenings, each focused on a different
foreign country, began in the spring.
Not Easy Being Green
Many of the world's environmental beauties, crises and triumphs captured
on celluloid were featured at the Green Screen film festival, the first
program of the International Center for the Arts' Documentary Film Institute.
Held in June at the Castro Theatre, the festival was a featured program
of the annual United Nations World Environment Day, hosted this year
by San Francisco, a city known for environmental awareness.
"It's not like we're preaching to the converted," Professor
Stephen Ujlaki, the festival's director and chair of SFSU's Cinema Department,
told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's more like we're reminding
them of the environmental victories and losses happening all over the
world right now. Because even the most environmentally conscious person
doesn't always know what's going on in other parts of the world."
About 25 films from 13 countries were shown at Green Screen. A tribute
was paid to renowned Swedish filmmaker Stefan Jarl, who was on hand
to screen several of his films about the aboriginal Sami peoples of
Finland. Their rich cultural traditions, including those of farming
and fishing, have suffered in part due to the devastation caused by
the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Jarl, who watched every film at the five-day festival, enjoyed the mix
of sad and optimistic films. He hopes Green Screen will inspire more
film festivals focused on environmental themes.
"People are not aware of how important man's relation to nature
is," he says. "In this globalized world we live in, we need
to know how we destroy our planet and how we protect our planet."
An entire day of films was dedicated to Slow Food, an international
movement opposing fast food and promoting wholesome dining as a source
of pleasure. Former Vice President Al Gore introduced "The Real
Dirt on Farmer John," a documentary about a once-failing family
farm in Illinois transformed into a sustainable, community-supported
venture. Attendees also sampled the cinematic cuisines of France in
"Harvest (Regain)," Great Britain and India in "A Love
Supreme" and Gilroy in "Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers."
In addition to hosting festivals, the center's Documentary Film Institute
will also award grants to help filmmakers complete their documentaries.
"We now have resources to bring films and filmmakers from around
the world," says Ujlaki. "Funding for documentaries is extremely
difficult to get… [and] more emphasis is [placed] on entertainment
and diversion than on reality."
Godfather of Cuban Bass Jams with a Star of Godfather III
"Cachao" Lopez has been called the "godfather
of Cuban bass" and "our living Mozart." The reasons
why were clear to those who heard him live in concert as part
of the two-day inaugural program for the International Center
for the Arts. The concert, held in March at Bimbo's 365 Club in
North Beach, concluded "To Cuba With Love," a celebration
of Afro-Cuban culture.
Backed by his band, the Cineson All-Stars, the 86-year-old Lopez,
known as the creator of mambo music, played a set that filled
the dance floor for nearly two hours. He hit his notes at a rapid
pace, playing masterfully even with a broken string.
was joined on stage by
a special guest: actor Andy Garcia, known for
his roles in such films as "The Godfather: Part III"
and "Ocean's Eleven." Garcia, a longtime fan of Lopez's
music and a fellow Cuba native, played the bongos and cowbell.
"Cachao has changed the course of Cuban music and gone on
to influence music and musicians all over the world for almost
an entire century," says Garcia, who helped revive Cachao's
career a decade ago with a documentary and has since produced
several of his albums. "His genius is unparalleled."
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik summarized the
evening best: "San Francisco State threw itself one whopping
SFSU Cause to Celebrate
"The International Center for the Arts was inspired by Judy's and
my love of the arts and my desire to recognize the university that contributed
to my professional success," says George Marcus. "San Francisco
State was a very important part of my life, and this is my way of giving
Born in Greece and raised in San Francisco, George Marcus
(B.S., '65) completed his economics degree in two and a half years.
Today his businesses include Essex Property Trust and Marcus and Millichap,
the parent company of a diversified group of real estate, service, investment
and development firms.
Judy Marcus (B.A., '62), a fourth-generation
San Franciscan and former physical education teacher, serves on the
board of directors of the Montalvo Arts Center, the Humane Society Silicon
Valley, Avenidas Senior Center and the Community Breast Health Project.
Longtime friends of SFSU, the Marcuses have also provided generous financial
support to the University's Center for Modern Greek Studies.